NEWS

Powell to focus on Cyprus, EU force

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday he would encourage Turkey to seek a settlement over Cyprus when he meets Foreign Minister Ismail Cem in Ankara next week. He also said he would like to see Ankara’s differences over a European rapid-reaction force settled as quickly as possible. On Cyprus, Mr. Cem and I talk about it on a regular basis and we’ll be encouraging them to continue to find a solution, working with the UN and others, he said of his first trip to Turkey, where he is due to arrive on Tuesday. I’d like to see greater momentum with respect to moving forward on Cyprus and I will explore with my Turkish interlocutors what might be done. Ankara has threatened to annex the Turkish-Cypriot north if Cyprus joins the European Union. As a signed-up EU member, Cyprus could then veto Turkey’s own accession to the body. The EU is also keeping up the pressure on rival Cypriot leaders to start shaping a deal on the island’s future when they meet Tuesday for the first time in four years. Powell is also due to attend meetings at NATO in Brussels next week. Turkey, whose decades-long aspiration to become an EU candidate was granted in 1999, is objecting to plans for the EU rapid-reaction force unless it can have a decision-making role in the force’s automatic use of NATO assets. I would encourage my Turkish colleagues to do everything they can to bring this matter to a resolution, Powell said. I really don’t want to speculate as to where it might be when I arrive there next week but there is a great deal of effort under way now between a number of parties to see if we cannot find a solution for the few remaining outstanding issues that would let us go forward with ESDP, he said.